If you are going to the Tour de France and want have time to see the riders faces as they defy the limits of the human body, go to a mountain stage. If you want to see little more than a Technicolor blur of brightly-colored Lycra and shaven legs, go to a flat stage. Today, my friend Tom and I attended the latter.
The Tour website says when the stage starts – usually around 11:00am – and estimated times they’ll reach towns along that days route. Leaving Toulousse around 9:40am, we arrive in Castelsarrasin at 10:15. We drove to the roadblock and nodded when the cop asked about “Le Tour?” After driving randomly through the streets of the small town, we found a parking spot on a quiet street, the end of which was blocked by a fence marking the route of the tour.
This was too easy.
Within minutes the start of the caravan was upon the small but energetic crowd, leaving a trail of promotional detritus in its wake. In another 45 minutes, the yellow pace motorcycle rounded the bend followed by the small group of lead riders, the deafening hum of the peloton barreling down on top of them. It was over in 30 seconds, they were moving incredibly fast. I fired off some shots and was surprised to see the chase vehicles in my viewfinder as quickly as it started. I didn’t even notice the race leader, British rider Bradley Wiggins, the only one donning a bright yellow jersey, in the flurry.
Tom and I took a moment to walk around Castelsarrasin, the birth place of the founder of Detroit, Lamothe Cadillac, who later had a major car company named in his honor. Detroit, pronounced day-TWAH in French, means Strait, or a small passage of water between two landmasses, e.g. Strait of Gibraltar.